Smarter Sundays

Since finishing up my Master’s and moving back to Canada, one of my personal challenges has been to keep my mind active. That makes me sound like an 80-year old man, but the fact remains that the opportunities for learning at my house are far different from those available at a major, internationally-renowned university.

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The extent of learning at my house.

Luckily, however, we don’t live in the 1600s and the witchcraft that is the Internet hasn’t been burned at the stake (yet – I’m looking at you, Reddit). The near-instant accessibility of information via the web has changed the way in which people and institutions approach education dramatically over the last decade, with digital libraries and classrooms becoming a viable alternative (or complement) to the traditional brick-and-mortar counterparts. Everything from online courses – now offered at countless centres of higher learning – to the recent advocacy for open-access publishing is a result of the benefits offered by the rise of the Internet.

These benefits are a huge help to students around the world, but they are also useful for people like myself who may not be a part of the formal education system anymore but who continue to be interested in learning. Thirty years ago, if I had happened to be curious about the German chancellor Bismarck, for instance, I would have had to go to a library to borrow a book or telephone an expert or check the entrails of a goat (maybe?  They did that back in the 1980s right?) – but today, there is a Wikipedia article, a discussion about Bismarck by a leading scholar, and a video of the man himself all within easy reach of anybody who is interested.

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Who wouldn’t want to read about this guy while in bed?
By Pilartz, Jacques [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I find this ease of access to information absolutely amazing and extremely useful. Accordingly, I have decided to devote one post per week to interesting things I learned or came across. Dubbed Smarter Sundays, the only detail I have really decided on is that I will publish it on Sundays – hopefully in the morning. Beyond that, I am going to try out a couple different formats over the next few weeks, so I would love to hear what you think of them!

For this week, I want to highlight a couple of YouTube channels I follow regularly because I think they are doing a great job of teaching people about neat subjects, but in a really engaging and exciting way.

Crash Course: World History and Crash Course: Biology

Veritasium

MinutePhysics

CGPGrey

Smarter Every Day

Vsauce

SciShow

Yale Courses

So let me know what you think about these channels in the comments, on Twitter, or on Facebook! Did you like the videos? Have you seen any of these channels before? What do you think about their approach to education and the style of their videos? Are there any videos you would recommend?

And if you have any suggestions for things you’d like to see in future editions of Smarter Sundays, be sure to let me know as well!

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Comments and questions are always encouraged!

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4 responses to “Smarter Sundays

  1. I would like to know more about Late Roman fortifications in eastern Europe, specifically Bulguria. Thank you.

  2. I feel like any medium of teaching that highlights itself as a “Crash Course” isn’t offering real learning. I agree that youtube channels like these are great ways to stimulate interest in a subject and engage a viewer to discover more expansive resources but, in and of themselves, I’m not convinced that youtube videos can offer true conceptual based learning.

    • It depends what you mean by ‘real learning’. The Crash Course videos certainly don’t offer a very deep analysis of topics, or anything you would expect at the university level, but that’s because they aren’t meant to – their target demographic is largely high school students. So for anyone who has an advanced knowledge of a subject, there may be very little to actually learn from the videos, but for people who aren’t experts in world history or biology there is a lot of merit. For instance, their episode on the fall of Rome was pretty good, but fairly basic for me since I have studied it for years; by contrast, I learned a lot from the biology series because I stopped studying that in grade 11 and missed a lot of the basics.

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